Hero (product) worship: beauty's most modern classics

Building a cult beauty brand is what my life is about. I think about it, read about it, dream about it, live it. One of the tenets of a cult beauty brand is that it is supported by a hero product. Musing about this topic last night, I made a list of which products I would consider to be true hero products in beauty. Three things surprised me: first, the range of launch dates represented by this list (over a century); second, how many of these hero products are identified by words such as “pioneer,” “classic,” and “the original;” and third, how many from this list I actually own, use, and adore. Which of these modern classics do you have in your bathroom, vanity, toiletry case, or purse?

Nivea Creme: Launched in 1911, this soothing, rich moisturizer in the iconic blue tin remains a top seller for the brand, despite the controversial endorsement deal with Rhianna which was short-lived, as the star was deemed “too sexy” for a brand whose core values are family, trust, and reliability.

Chanel N. 5: Launched in 1921, immortalized by Marilyn Monroe, this fragrance remains one of the most feminine. What do you wear to bed?

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream: Formulated in 1930, this multi-purpose balm remains a favorite today. I use it on lips, cuticles, and more.

Olay Active Hydrating Beauty Fluid: Introduced in 1951, more than 190 million bottles have been sold, a few of them to my grandmother. I remember seeing this in my granmother’s bathroom growing up; the scent still reminds me of her.

Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil: I read somewhere one of these is sold every seconds… I must try this product, which was launched in 1967.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse: Launched in 1991, the brand’s first product and one of the first multi-purpose beauty dry oils on the market, one of these is sold every 6 seconds in the world. I use this on my skin, in my hair, on my face, and love Gold version for a little extra glitter.

Creme de La Mer Moisturizing Cream: I wasn’t able to find the exact launch date of this amazing cream, but I am guessing sometime in the 2000s… Based on Max Huber’s “Miracle Broth,” this product was a first in the ultra-premium segment of our industry. I can’t help but feel extra special when I use this…

Creme de La Mer Moisturizing Cream: I wasn’t able to find the exact launch date of this amazing cream, but I am guessing sometime in the 2000s… Based on Max Huber’s “Miracle Broth,” this product was a first in the ultra-premium segment of our industry. I can’t help but feel extra special when I use this… And love the fact that local DC celebrity dermatologist (and friend and mentor) Dr. Tina Alster also loves the brand (her go-to product is the La Mer Concentrate)!

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum: Launched in 2005, this serums has won Allure Magazine’s prized Best of Beauty Award three times, and is a key part of the brand’s success.

Finally, Kiehl’s Creme de Corps: Beyond a single product, this is really a hero product family. From the classic formulation, the brand has launched a number of limited edition bottles in partnership with various artists, and collections featuring different fragrances (the original is unscented). I kind of want to start collecting these…

I can’t help but wonder which more recent launches will be added to this list… time will tell…

Beach Beauty

The week of July 4th is one of my very favorite weeks of the year – not so much because of Independence Day, but because I spend this week on the Greek island of Tinos. The days are filled with swimming in the very salty sea, sand, rest, rosé wine, and Greek salads. Given that I spend eight hours on average at the beach each day, my beach bag beauty essentials are, well, essential. Here are my must-haves.

Even though I will exclusively be in the shade under an umbrella (except when swimming), I protect my face and body with the La Roche Posay Anthelios XL 50+ sunscreen oil. It smells delicious, has the texture of a dry oil, and is water resistant. On my face, I’ll layer that over the Alchimie Forever prototype of our Daily Defense cream SPF 23 (in the blue bottle), for added antioxidant protection from vitamins C and E, and blueberry and edelweiss extracts.

At the end of the day, when leaving the beach, I’ll slather on my Protective Day Cream, which is lightweight enough for the heat, and our Antioxidant Skin Repair Gel on my body – yes, it is for men, but I love the gel texture and the fresh scent. And all of the anti-inflammatory ingredients are great for post-sun exposure.

To keep my hair frizz-free and to prevent the sun and salt from drying it out, I spray the Aveda Sun Care on a few times per day.

To make my pre-vacation manicure and pedicure last, I carry with me SpaRitual’s Twinkle Shimmer blue (for my toes) and Christian Dior’s Nail Glow (for my fingers) with me (I love that product, it really does make the pink part of my nails pinker, and the white part whiter!).

Finally, I don’t leave the house without my favorite summer product, Huile Prodigieuse by Nuxe. I use it on my face, body, and hair, to nourish my skin and give it a nice glow and prevent dryness from the salt. I even use it in lieu of fragrance, the aroma is so wonderful. No wonder Nuxe sells one of these every 6 seconds!

On that note, I am off to the beach…

Wisdom from WWD's Beauty Summit

Back in the office after a day and a half of WWD Beauty Summit, my head is so full of information, ideas, and inspiration that I can barely think straight. My mother’s advice when that happens is to write things down: lists, to-dos, key learnings. Putting things on paper, she always told me, will clarify your thinking. So that’s what I am doing… for myself, and also partly for you who might not have been able to attend.

While it is impossible for me to say who was my favorite speaker (well, of course, other than Leonard Lauder who was the keynote speaker of the dinner), it is easy for me to share the one liners that resonated the most with me…


On Digital

“The digital world is like the air we breathe; we only notice it when it is not here.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“It’s pretty damned crowded on that Google highway.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“The beauty industry is not leading the way in digital innovation.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“Today is not about brand loyalty, but about brand advocacy.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“Digital should never be an afterthought, a project… digital is the way we live.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“We can’t let digitization sanitize the essence of beauty.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“Never think you can fool the customer; the bloggers with get you!” Leonard Lauder, Estee Lauder

“No brand is going to survive if it does not have a digital component to it.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“It’s very last century to think of digital media as isolated from the rest of your marketing strategy.” Gina Boswell, Unilever


On Bricks and Mortar

“The internet is not going to kill retail.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“Every great city needs its iconic department store.” Corinne Jacques, Rive Gauche

“In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.” Charles Revson, as quote by Julia Goldin, Revlon

“I go to other people’s stores to find out what pisses me off and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“JC Penney needs a little therapy.” Norma Kamali

“We need retailers in the US to believe here is a 3rd way, somewhere between department stores and mass.” Aliza Jabes, Nuxe

“Be a destination, not an obligation or an inspiration.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“When you grow too fast, you lose your soul.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie


On Age and Beauty

“This baby will live to be 120.” Gordon Farquhar, Alliance Boots

“Most people see the ideal age as 31.” Linda Wells, Allure

“I am 47 and I still think in my brain that I am somewhere between 28 and 36.” Brooke Shields

“I have to choose my ass or my face… when I am heavier, I look younger.” Brooke Shields

“I have clearly chosen my face over my ass.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“A facelift without treating skin is like reupholstering a sofa with dirty fabric.” Tina Alster,  MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery

“We all believe that we look younger than we are.” Linda Wells, Allure

“Men want to look like they are old enough to have the job they have, so they don’t come to me asking to look a decade younger.” Tina Alster, MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery

“How do you look your best at 75 when you are trying to find your 3rd life partner?” Gordon Farquhar, Alliance Boots

“Put older women on the pages of your magazines.”  Tina Alster, MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery


On the Beauty Consumer

“We could be in danger of having a bored beauty consumer.” Ed Burstell, Liberty London

“American women want instant gratification and quick fixes.” Mathilde Thomas, Caudalie

“American women do not understand the subtleties of French packaging.” Mathilde Thomas, Caudalie

“One in two households has a Suave product in their households.” Gina Boswell, Uniliver

“When it comes to how she looks, the biggest pressure is the pressure she puts on herself.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“We see firsthand everyday how hard women are on themselves; there is a lot of crying in the fitting room!” Claire Chambers, Journelle

“Only 4% of adult women think they are beautiful, which is deplorable.” Gina Boswell, Univelever

“People identify with people, not ingredients.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“Listen to your customers; sometimes they know more than you do.” Leonard Lauder, Estee Lauder


On Trends

“What is new and unique today is likely to be irrelevant tomorrow.” Ded Henretta, P&G

“The beauty business is on the verge of new prosperity.” Peter Born, WWD

“I find the idea that the era of single digit growth in the luxury beauty market has arrived unacceptable; I am quite convinced that the luxury beauty segment can continue to sustain double digit growth.” Carol Hamilton, L’Oreal

“Treating the body from top to bottom is the next step.” Ed Burstell, Liberty London

“The holistic approach is the next big thing.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“Skin care is by far the largest category in China, but men’s grooming has great potential.” Hua Fang, Shanghai Jahwa United

“About our spas: no big news here today, we have not yet found the recipe to making them profitable.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie

“Today’s world is VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“Red is still the highest selling lipstick color.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“Focusing on cities will be the unique way to achieve growth.” Nathalie Remy, McKinsey

“We sell one Huile Prodigieuse every 6 seconds worldwide.” Aliza Jabes

“It’s about launching less products and opening fewer doors.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie


On Emotions

“There is an emotional deficit in the world that we as brands can fill.” Wende Zomnir, Urban Decay

“Beauty is personal and emotional, and will always be that way.” Marla Malcolm Beck, Bluemercury

“Inspiration can come from anywhere, as long as you have your eyes open.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“I like to get really emotional on the data.” Wende Zomnir, Urban decay

“Better be lucky than smart.” Michael Kaplan, Fashion to Figures Stores

“There isn’t a woman in the world who can’t be taken down by a bad hair day.” Norma Kamali

“Happiness is like eyelashes; it is so close to your eyes, sometimes you can’t see it.” Francis Kurkdjian


About the French (from the French!)

“The French consumer is more reasonable.” Aliza Jabes

“We have to stop thinking like typical negative French people.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie

“Paris is the most beautiful city on Earth, but in wealth it is #4, whereas New York is #2.” Nathalie Remy, McKinsey

“I became obsessed with pleasure of use, with texture, with fragrance.” Aliza Jabes, Nuxe


More Words of Wisdom from Leonard Lauder

“A business without a vision isn’t a business, it’s just a pastime. You have to have a vision.”

“When a person with money meets a person with experience, pretty soon the person with experience has money and the person with money has experience.”

“Accountants and lawyers make good accountants and lawyers. Period. Make your own decisions.”

“You’re never too far ahead to lose or too far behind to win.” (quoting Arla Specter)

“Over-distribution will get you every time. We never let distribution run ahead of demand.”

“Start small and become important to one customer. Then 2. If you think you can be important to 100 customers in 100 cities, it will never work. Be an acorn and you will grow into a great oak.”